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Chasing Operational Excellence: Putting Revenue Growth on Hold to Grow Our People

It’s hard to believe that a company like Shamrock that specializes in helping Fortune 500 companies achieve operational excellence in their day-to-day business tasks, was not efficient in our own processes. Unfortunately, it was true. It’s something that happens not only to most SMB (small to medium-sized businesses) companies during hyper-growth, but also to just about every large company we help daily. Why? Things are moving so fast that there’s rarely time to slow down and assess the current bottlenecks and glaring issues in core business processes.

So what did Shamrock do? We took a collective breath, pushed pause, and put growth and profits to one side for a year while we got our shit together. 2018 has been our “rebuilding” year that precedes our 10- year anniversary in 2019.

The company nearly doubled every year for five years straight. When this happens, when are we supposed to find time to put processes in place!? It’s impossible. We were living day-to-day in Westworld’s Wild Wild West, guns blazin’, getting the work done, and asking questions later (if at all). Over the past few years, we went from three to 35 employees and contractors. I could not only see the writing on the wall but could also hear the stress and frustration in my team’s voices. Paradoxically, the growth that in many ways was benefiting our business was also choking the life out of us. It was also starting to affect our customer projects and we’d started down a path to delivering bad customer experiences due to our inefficiencies – the polar opposite of our customer-first ethos.

Every department of a company manages tasks, forms, documents, processes, people, and more. When your team doesn’t have the proper tools in place to be successful, your business will eventually stop growing, plateau…or worse, implode. Increased projects, workload, staff, salaries, etc. were putting us in a big bind. At the end of 2017, I recognized that we had to take a step back, reflect on how far we had come in such a short period, and dig deep to get to the root of the issues with which our teams were struggling.

During our December 2017 all-company gathering, we put bold initiatives in place to make sure we overcame our challenges and turned problems into wins in 2018. First off, and most importantly, we needed to concentrate on our employees and invest time and money in education. Shamrock historically hired experienced staff that were more senior in their careers. Something that should be obvious, but what I was overlooking is that even though I hired the best of the best, most employees still wanted to learn, expand their skill sets, and improve themselves as both professionals and people. As time flew by, there was no emphasis or priority to keep our Top Guns dialed in and keeping up with ever-evolving technology trends. We needed to ensure they had the knowledge to not only do their day-to-day tasks but also become thought leaders in the field with our customers and within our company.

Next, we determined that our current pattern would be unsustainable if we didn’t also put in some more structure. We started by deciding to stop the growth. Now, a little bit about me…I am extremely competitive, hate losing, and taking a step back just isn’t in my DNA. Not seeing the numbers go up was and still is very difficult for me to swallow every day. However, when looking at the big picture it was apparent that we were probably not going to have a company at all if we hired more people and forced yet more growth. It came down to putting our proper pillars in place to allow us to grow in the future and do it smartly and responsibly, at the sake of this year’s short-term results.

After we pushed reboot on our 2018 plan, we needed to get organized. We started by promoting from within and putting a management layer in place. Not always a popular choice and never an easy task! Next, we enrolled all members of our leadership team, including myself, in a year-long management training course with the Coffman Group. We also implemented EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) to align management with the direction of the company, setting quarterly rocks (goals), holding more structured management meetings, etc.

Lastly, we started to eat our own dog food and re-invented our brand and products. Shamrock’s main goal for every engagement is to make the customer more efficient in their business. So why the heck were we not doing this in our own office?! We saw that we could benefit from starting to use the very tools we implement for others. The barriers were simple but significant: time and money. Taking the time to document our processes, fully understand the touchpoints and the tasks we do on a daily basis and identify the bottlenecks takes time. Then it takes money to invest back into our people. But it’s something that HAD to happen. Getting all our processes moved to our Freedom methodology is still a work in progress, but should be complete by the end of the year. And if it takes a little longer to do it right, then so be it.

What did Shamrock do differently in 2018? We slowed down and got back to doing what we do best: implementing people-focused solutions that will make our company more efficient, more profitable, and more fun (heaven forbid we actually enjoy what we’re doing, right)? The positive ripple effects won’t end with us but extend to delivering better solutions and service to each and every one of our valued customers. In short, we’ll have achieved Operational Excellence. We may not be there yet, but looking at where we were at this time last year, I think everyone Shamrock would agree that we are on the right track and aligned to grow again in 2019. Watch out, this Shamrock Train is leaving the station!

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